Michael Howell May 4, 2011 J300 Dr.

Snyder Competition and Alliance: A Complex Fur Trade in the Upper Mississippi and Great Lakes Regions
Figure 1 Figure 2

An image of an Iroquoian war chant recorded by Nicolas Perrot and published in Claude Charles Le Roy, Bacqueville de la Potherie¶s Histoire de l'Amerique Septentrionale. Iroquois War Chant, Bacqueville de La Potherie,
³Histoire de l'Amerique Septentrionale,´ 1723, Archive of Early American Images, John Carter Brown Library.

An image of a Native American holding the calumet; the frontispiece of A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America by Father Lewis Hennepin. Lewis Hennepin, A New
Discovery of a Vast Country in America (London, 1698), frontispiece.

We are told of five French-Canadian soldiers, in 1669, who went into some woods hunted by those of the Iroquois Nation and found a lone Indian with a canoe full of moose skins. After at first refusing, the Iroquoian Indian finally accepted the men¶s offer of some brandy, and after some time he, evidently, ³took so much that he became dead-drunk.´1 The soldiers then secured a rock to the man¶s neck and let him drop into the Outaoüas River and set off with his equipage. Those who knew him came to believe that he had died from river rapids, until one day when the man¶s corpse was witnessed floating on the water with a rock fastened to it. One of the man¶s pelts was recognized by a specific mark that Iroquoian peoples put on their own furs and a
1 Nicolas Perrot, ³Memoir on the Manners, Customs and Religion of the Savages of North America,´ i The Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi Valley & Region of the Great Lakes, trans. Emma Helen Blair (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1996), 204.


woods ranger²Nicolas Perrot¶s Memoir on the Manners. So as the French fur trade encouraged competition for beaver pelts between Indian nations. 204-207. it also encouraged alliances. 3 However. 2 . Fur traders like Nicolas Perrot. Customs and Religion of the Savages of North America. Alice E. Thompson.´ in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. between Indian groups in the Great Lakes region. ³Competition among Native tribes for the beaver. the French military persisted to shoot to death each of the five men. ³From Exploration to Statehood. Smith tells us that. This episode was published within the famous coureur des bois²or French-Canadian. 5 Vols.trail of exchanges was traced back to the five soldiers. So the soldiers were arrested by the French military. we also see that peace between Native groups was actively sought out by French fur traders in the preservation of trade. and resultant tribal rivalries and wars. Smith. 1985). Sieur du Lhut embodied this contradiction in the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi regions. ed.. And despite the Iroquoian Nation¶s request to execute only one of the soldiers. Sieur de La Salle and Daniel Greysolon. 2 3 Ibid.2 While this anecdote does not exemplify the typical contradiction of competition and alliance within the French fur trade discussed in this essay. it does show some complexities arising from the fur trade. The Iroquoian Nation let known their indignation by threatening a renewal of war with the French people. tried and sentenced to death. (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin. promoted by fur traders. Alice E.´ i The History of Wisconsin. 1:12. were pointing towards a general upheaval. William F. René-Robert Cavelier.

The former would go on to invite the Society of Jesus. 6 Smith. who would continue the practice of living with Native Americans and learning their language. etc. religion. 8 Smith. Cornelius J. politics. and eventually arriving at today¶s Montreal. 1867).6 Francis Parkman.´ 1:6.The origins of French interaction with the peoples of North American transpired with Jacque Cartier. ³From Exploration to Statehood. Friend and Foe: Aspects of French-Amerindian Cultural Contact in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (New York: Columbia University Press. or the Jesuits. Early Narratives of the Northwest. 1976). 43. under the rule of King Louis XIII.´7 As the Jesuits claimed to have converted several hundred Indians by the late 1670s. 11. 8 From 1632 to 1673 they published reports²known as Jesuit Relations²about their work with 4 5 Ibid. Lawrence River. In 1608. explains that ³in the eyes of the Jesuits.´ 1:28. and by 1643 the Jesuit missions had started to flourish in the Great Lakes region²amongst the Huron Indians especially. 4.5 Étienne Brûlé was the first Frenchmen able to live among the Hurons around 1620. Louise P. ed. founded the port of Quebec. his castle and his donjon-keep.. The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century (Boston: Little. And he soon after made contact with the Huron peoples on the Richelieu River which would begin a long relationship of trade as he had strategically considered their control of the upper Ottawa River near Montreal. 3 . 41. they also were able to gain information from their familiarity with them. 3-6. Brown and Company.4 Seven years later. Jaenen. Samuel de Champlain. discovering the Gulf of St Lawrence and the St. referencing to writings by Jesuit missionary Gabriel Lalemant. 1917). Champlain introduced four Recollet priests to the Hurons. 1634-1699. ³From Exploration to Statehood. the Huron country was the innermost stronghold of Satan. Kellogg (New York: Charles Scribner¶s Sons. in 1534. 7 Francis Parkman.

The Middle Ground: Indians. or the meeting of frontiers between New France and the Native American groups of the Great Lakes region. 12 Havard. Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott (Montreal and Kingston. that it was done only through compassion for their miserable condition? On the other hand. trans. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French-Native Diplomacy in the Seventeenth Century. some Indian groups saw early Europeans as spirits. we can look at a quote by Perrot: ³did not we [New France] even inform them [Native Americans]. ³a process leading towards it had clearly begun. 1991). Empires. 2001). in offering these [valuable presents]. 1:11. 19. and would act as diplomats and spies for New France.. London and Ithaca: McGill-Queen¶s University Press. Examples of concept assimilation existed with the French who ³reduced Indian religion to [previous French concepts of] devil worship and witchcraft. The middle ground was literal as well as figurative in its assimilation of concepts. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French-Native Diplomacy in the Seventeenth Century. 10 9 4 . there were a number of conflicting perspectives concerning dependence on trade in this region. Gilles Havard. Gillis Havard mentions that. benefited both the French and Indians. they even regard us as people who are in some Ibid. in this present time of ours they desire to dominate us and be our superiors.´12 Trade had. however.´ and similarly. we see what Richard White has called the middle ground.11 The fur trade brought Native Americans and Europeans into a complex system of interaction with reliance on both sides. 11 Richard White.10 As the Jesuits spread the influence of France and its fur trade to numerous Indian nations throughout the seventeenth century. UK: Cambridge University Press. 1650-1815 (Cambridge. 51. or manitous in the context of their religion before first contact. no doubt. 32. although European goods did not change or create dependence for these Native groups. and Republics in the Great Lakes Region.9 The Jesuit missions were also involved in trade in the region.Native groups which they would send back to France. To understand the complexity of the various perspectives on trade between the French and Indian groups.

Wea.´ 1:12. 14 Havard. in 1685.pdf. which could never be sustained without them. ³The Fur Trade of the Western Great Lakes Region. Empires. it is evident that interaction between Native Americans and French traders here was complex. Kickapoo. 21. 16 Ibid. The Middle Ground: Indians. 13. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French-Native Diplomacy in the Seventeenth Century..´ Minnesota History. 15 Smith.´ And we can compare it to what Baron De Lahontan wrote. and French traders followed.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/19/v19i03p271-307. in 1699. from a number of disasters and having been defeated by Illinois Indians. Noquet. Mascoutin.´13 Similarly. Traders here would set up trading posts in order to house furs to send back to Quebec. 1650-1815. 1938. after Louis XIV had established New France as a royal colony. ³The savages our friends will become our enemies. Fox. three fourths of which come from the people that live round the great lakes. Ross. that ³Canada subsists only upon the trade of skins or furrs. 13 5 . 31. that the Winnebago Nation of the Green Bay region had been reduced to one-sixth of its former size.. 19:271. and much less still if they war against us. Beavers were prevalent here. ³From Exploration to Statehood.15 It was around the midseventeenth century. and Republics in the Great Lakes Region. March 28]. and Ottowa Nations²along with refugee Petuns and Hurons²to fill in this region in pursuit of trade with the French. that. 1:14.mnhs. westward expansion had advanced significantly²partly because Ibid. and the result will be the inevitable loss of the colony.16 A decade later.´14 Regardless of how the French fur trade was sustained in the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi regions. White. Miami. Frank E. which attracted Indian groups seeking trade with Europeans. The Pays d¶en haut²or the ³upper country´²epitomized the French fur trade in North America because it represented the middle ground.manner dependent on them. 14. This encouraged friendly factions of Sauk. http://collections. Potawatomi. Intendant Champigny said. [cited 2011.

Iroquois Indians on the St. Ibid. Bacqueville de la Potherie also attended Montreal¶s Great Peace Treaty conference of 1701. Lawrence River were passive at the time. especially the Huron peoples. New France was brought close to ruin by harm to their fur trade.. 20 Ibid.22 Similar to the Huron peoples. A strong illustration of competition and alliance from the French fur trade in this region occurred with the Iroquois Wars and subsequent Peace Treaty of 1701. 33. 19 Claude Charles Le Roy. 21 Ross.´ 19:289.19 The Iroquois Five Nations. it was published in Histoire de l'Amerique Septentrionale by Claude Charles Le Roy.20 These attacks were the result of overhunting in their own territory which curbed trade with English settlers. ³The Fur Trade of the Western Great Lakes Region. This created a fervor for guns and ammunition amongst other Native groups in the region. White. Figure 1 shows an image of an Iroquoian war song that Nicolas Perrot recorded from his interactions with those Indians. Bacqueville de la Potherie.. 13.´ 4. 23. which occupied the region near the St. ³Introduction. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French-Native Diplomacy in the Seventeenth Century. began raiding Indian Nations to the beaver-rich north who would have traded with the French. 22 Havard.. Illinois and Miami groups began acquiring guns from the French in 1671²about twenty years after the Iroquois had begun 17 18 Ibid. As attacks by the Five Nations moved west.18 But many groups were also motivated to move here in order to escape aggressive groups such as the Iroquois Five Nations. 6 .17 Green Bay and Chequamegon Bay became prime locations for Indians seeking trade since it provided direct contact between hunters and French traders.21 Guns acquired by Iroquois peoples through trade with the English allowed them an advantage in warring with groups in the Great Lakes region. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. 21.

against the Iroquois peoples. Empires. 1673-1800 (Cambridge. Father Le Clercq.´25 Other groups raided by Iroquois Indians during this period included the Wenros. 24 Ibid.28 White tells us that ³neither trade nor military force alone could have held the alliance together.´29 He goes on to explain that mediation was possible through an infrastructure of refugee centers that brought groups of Indians together to aid in protection. the Miami and Illinois confederacies had split up as a once unified political organization. and Republics in the Great Lakes Region. 12. the Neutrals. when the former²instead of supplying guns to the latter in their skirmishes with Iroquois Indians²began mediating directly.24 This. as Eric Hindraker explains in Elusive Empires. and the Eries. the Petuns. Elusive Empires: Constructing Colonialism in the Ohio Valley.´ 233.. an alliance against the Iroquois was reason enough to mediate between the numerous groups of Indians in this region. 34. 31. 29 Ibid. Customs and Religion of the Savages of North America.destroying villages in their territories. 1997). in 1682. 1650-1815. UK: Cambridge University Press. therefore. 28 White. Monsieur de la Barre. would have left ³Illinois and Miami Indians increasingly vulnerable in their relations with outsiders. 26 Ibid. 7 . understood that war would have interrupted commerce. 25 Ibid. It was the ability of the French to mediate peace between contentious and vengeful allies that did that. 33.27 The relationship of French traders with the Huron peoples changed slightly.. just prior to French contact. The Middle Ground: Indians. 27 Perrot.23 Interestingly. Eric Hinderaker. ³Memoir on the Manners. while promoting French 23 Ibid. having traveled this region with La Salle.26 But the Huron peoples were the only ones at first to accept the tomahawk²a symbol for the declaration of war²from the New France governor. which occurred for reasons that are not quite clear.

would have witnessed a scene like this in traveling with La Salle in 1679.trade. 75. from whom we obtain this image.´ and the 30 31 Ibid. enjoyed the honor of smoking the calumet with numerous Indian Nations. Perrot writes that ³In the morning he [Monsieur de Lude] was told that I was at Michillimakinak.31 Peace was fragile in this environment. induce the tribes to unite with us in this war. Perrot. 33 Perrot.. 35 Perrot. 32 Ibid. 8 . Figure 2 shows a sketch of an Indian holding the calumet with the Mississippi River as its background.´35 When Perrot met a Potowatomi chief. he was presented the calumet and the latter uttered.´ 234. Ibid. in particular. better than I. [as he was] persuaded of the ascendency that I possessed over their minds. Sieur du Lhut would have known this from experience. ³Memoir on the Manners. René-Robert Cavelier. 14.´ 182. converting them and securing trade from them. 34 Early Narratives of the Northwest. Sieur de La Salle and Daniel Greysolon. and told me that no one could. Customs and Religion of the Savages of North America. 1634-1699. he sent for me.32 French fur traders interacting with Indian groups in the seventeenth century would have become familiar with the practice of passing the calumet. who has instructed thee and sent thee to our country. ³praised be the Sun.30 Jesuit estimates state that between fifteen thousand and twenty thousand people lived in these centers during the 1670s. Father Lewis Hennepin. or singing the calumet as Perrot describes it. and French traders such as Nicolas Perrot. ³Memoir on the Manners.34 This practice was another example of the middle ground where French traders would often smoke it as a sign of peace in order to live amongst Native American peoples² learning about them.. Customs and Religion of the Savages of North America.33 The calumet was a sacred pipe used to smoke tobacco for the purposes of worship and negotiation. 15. When discussing the war sought out by Monsieur de la Barre against the Iroquois Indians.

Ibid. what will you have to fear. ³From Exploration to Statehood.chief blew smoke over him.. or whoever received the honors of the calumet.. 40 Smith.40 The Jesuits had trained and sponsored his stay with these groups. and soon after he came across Potowatomi Indians at Green Bay. 69-70. ³From Exploration to Statehood. 38 Ibid. Perrot was living among the Algonquian peoples.42 Fifteen years later in 1684. as a son of the tribe. 1:25 footnote. the Outagami. 25..39 He is known for being among the first Frenchmen to see many places within the Great Lakes region and the first white man to be seen by many Native American groups. 41 Perrot¶s Memoir was written between 1680 and 1718. Outagami. by which I bind you to my body.´ 1:36-37. 185. Mascoutin and Miami Indian territories. the Maskouten. 1634-1699. the Sioux and the Ayoë Nations. which took place while Perrot was traveling throughout Menominee. the Miami. who make guns and hatchets. Customs and Religion of the Savages of North America. which allowed him to learn various Native American languages. 9 . 43 Smith. 43 Perrot spoke to Menominee Indians at a time when they were on the verge of war with the Potawatomi Nation for having murdered one of their people: Here is a porcelain collar [a wampum belt].. 39 Early Narratives of the Northwest. Ibid. he would be sent as an agent of New France into present day Wisconsin to secure peace between Indian groups there. 75. and who 36 37 Ibid. 74.´ 1:15. From his experiences.. 42 Ibid. 36 This mark of respect would have signified Perrot. if you unite yourselves to us.37 Other times in which Perrot smoked from the calumet were in interactions with the Maloumin.41 It was in this memoir that we find the story at the beginning of this essay. he would go on to write his Memoir on the Manners. 27. 38 As early as 1664.

du Lhut had also rescued Father Hennepin²who 44 45 Early Narratives of the Northwest. has told me to join together. 77-78.´ i The Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi Valley & Region of the Great Lakes. 48 Ross. the council did not end up staying in Montreal because the colony had been pillaged by Iroquois Indians. Perrot would go on to mediate peace between the Fox and Ojibwa Nations. ³From Exploration to Statehood. 46 Richard White. Perrot. again. introduced by the Fox Nation. 49 Interestingly. 1996). And in 1689. asked to stage a council of Algonquian leaders to agree on peace. 47 Daniel Greysolon. I have come to embrace all the men whom Onontio. 1634-1699. which is similar to that of the Iroquois war chant in Figure 1. and kill one another when he desires to establish peace between you?44 The father of the deceased Indian then took the wampum belt. ³Introduction. Perrot and du Lhut worked together to convene Indians at La Baye in hopes of securing peace. Sieur du Lhut mediated peace between Chippewa Nation and Sioux Nation Indians in 1679 when it had disturbed the fur trade there.´ 19:276-277.´ 185. presented the calumet to Perrot and to all those present and began singing²indicating that he wished to enter into alliance with Perrot. Perrot was able to record sheet music to the calumet song. ³Memoir on the Manners.knead iron as you do pitch? I have united myself with the Pouteouatemis. Emma Helen Blair (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. 45 As an agent. And in the summer of 1688. Customs and Religion of the Savages of North America. trans. on whom you are planning to make war. in order to take them under his protection.48 He also settled peace between Algonquian groups quarreling over murders in order to preserve trade with them. 47 Smith. du Lhut and Perrot were. footnote.´ 1:38. 49 Ibid. 2. however. the chief of all the French who have settle in this country. 10 . Would you refuse his support. ³The Fur Trade of the Western Great Lakes Region.46 He also acted as interpreter during peace negotiations between the French and the Onondaga Nation.

as well as Indian.gives us the image in Figure 2²as a captive of the Sioux Nation. While peace may have been the mission for these agents. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French-Native Diplomacy in the Seventeenth Century. The Middle Ground: Indians. New France Governers: Joseph-Antoine le Febvre de La Barre and Charles Jacques de Huault de Montmagny took part in these negotiations as well.54 Before Druillete the Jesuits were firm to their missionary work. meaning ³great mountain. 323. René-Robert Cavelier. Montmagny²given the name Onontio. Iroquois individuals living in New France. but could travel freely through Iroquoian Smith. 55 Furthermore.52 This being said. 19. 52 Havard. 54 Parkman. many French. 31. 55 Ibid. 19.51 And his lieutenant.53 And the Jesuits would also play an important role in keeping peace between divided Indian nations.142. White. but afterward they would often enter into the politics of Native groups. there were a number Jesuit missions accepted into the territories of the Iroquois Nations that were. ³From Exploration to Statehood. 1650-1815.´ 1:33. The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century. 53 White. Henri de Tonti. 50 Another trader.´²had mediated peace between several Algonquian groups. 36. mission villages would act as mediators between France and the Five Nations since they were allies to New France. 56 Conversely. The Middle Ground: Indians. and Republics in the Great Lakes Region. 51 50 11 . thus. individuals participated in extending peace between groups. 56 Havard. had mediated peace between Miami and Illinois Indians in 1685. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French-Native Diplomacy in the Seventeenth Century. In 1650 Father Gabriel Druilletes traveled down the Kennebec River to negotiate a treaty between Indian groups in that area. Empires. Empires. and Republics in the Great Lakes Region. used by New France to negotiate with and spy on individuals in those regions. 1650-1815. Illinois and Shawnee Indians together at the fortified Starved Rock garrison in today¶s state of Illinois to avoid Iroquois attacks. it was not always a harmless occupation²at least two were tortured and killed. Sieur de La Salle brought Miami.

´59 Perrot would claim other territories and peoples including Lake Pepin in 1688 and Green Bay in 1689. 60 Smith. trans. and all these people who hear me are his subjects«he desires that they live in peace. from 1609 to 1701. ³Histoire de l¶Amérique septentrionale´ i The Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi Valley & Region of the Great Lakes. Emma Helen Blair (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. 59 Claude Charles Le Roy. 38. and he will take in hand their affairs« if his children have any disputes among themselves. this land is his.29. 1:25. the region of the Great Lakes.´ 1:29. between the Great Lakes region Nations and Ibid. The treaty was a general peace between the Iroquois Five Nations.. White. The Middle Ground: Indians. In 1671 Perrot gave a speech to the Indian groups that surrounded Lakes Huron and Superior: ³I take possession of this country in the name of him whom we call our king. and La Salle did the same at the mouth of the Mississippi River. and Republics in the Great Lakes Region. Algonquian coalitions and the French themselves. 39.territory. 61 These pursuits continued as France and its trade moved throughout the Great Lakes region. As the Iroquois Wars demonstrated the extent to which competition had been the result of the French fur trade in the upper country. William W. 58 57 12 . du Lhut and La Salle were employed in claiming. 1921). ³From Exploration to Statehood. Folwell. This would bring to a close the intermittent period of hostility.57 And a Potawatomi Indian by the name of Onanghisse often negotiated with the French and has been considered the Potawatomi equivalent to Perrot. for the King and for French trade. the Great Peace Treaty of Montreal of 1701 represents French influence towards alliance. A History of Minnesota. Perrot.60 Du Lhut had claimed the region of Lake Mille Lacs within the territory of the Sioux Nation in 1679. 1650-1815. Bacqueville de la Potherie. (St Paul: Minnesota Historical Society. 347. he desires to be the judge in these. Empires. 1996).58 Aside from bringing furs to New France and acting as diplomats. 4 vols. 61 Ibid. 1:17.

64 Havard.the Iroquois Nations. 1:51.63 While peace had been settled between the Iroquois Nations and New France and its allies. ³Memoir on the Manners. rather than just one. And this became clear when the Jesuits began living with Indian groups such as those of the Algonquian or Huron Nations.´65 And history would show the extent to which European imperialism continued to manipulate Native American groups. influenced by so splendid a reparation. Pierre François-Xavier de Charlevoix. 65 Ibid. came down into the colony and remained there.. asserted once that ³wars are eternal among the savages. we see the formation of a complex system of interaction between two separate beneficiaries. The furs that caused five French soldiers to murder an Iroquoian man on the Outaoüas River were part of a global market that brought on a complex interaction of competition and alliance between French and Native American peoples in the Great Lakes region. 176. were executed. and soon after traders. conflict would transpire again when the French and Fox Nation fought each other for over two decades beginning just eleven years after the Peace of 1701. 1634-1699.. Early Narratives of the Northwest. 63 62 13 . New France saw this as a disturbance to the fur trade and actively sought out peace in the region. At first priests. Customs and Religion of the Savages of North America. 66 Perrot. Iroquois Indians ³had great confidence in the French.64 The Jesuit explorer.´66 At the start of the colony.´ 234. Perrot tells us that when the five French soldiers. 175. started to learn Indian languages allowing for increased religious conversion Ibid.62 Nicolas Perrot served as an interpreter for these talks. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French-Native Diplomacy in the Seventeenth Century. and many of their families. when Champlain was meeting with groups in the Great Lakes region and securing sources of furs to send back to France. 71. While competition for beaver hunting grounds and for commerce with French traders occurred between Indian groups.

So for an integral time in North American history. priests. we can only partially piece together what interaction must have been like between Natives and newcomers. 67 It is evident that the Great Lakes region in the seventeenth century was complex. 14 . Jesuit missions and Indian allies. peace was achieved through refugee centers. Although this would not secure the long term control of this region for France. explorers and colonial authorities have contributed to the narrative of interaction with Native Americans. alternative perspectives from Native Americans. The Great Lakes region was important because it was a melting pot of individuals. whether they were French traders seeking Indian furs or Indians seeking refuge from attacking Nations. 143. So traders such as Nicolas Perrot were used as agents of New France to seek treaties between quarreling groups.as well as trade expansion. it was the end of a period of aggression in which alliance would be a major factor in maintaining the fur trade of New France. and Republics in the Great Lakes Region. New France was able to make peace with the Iroquois Nations. 1650-1815. less significant Frenchmen and French women are scarce. Empires. however. But Historians like Richard 67 White. Various perspectives from prominent traders. They would use symbols in the calumet and tomahawk to achieve these aims. As Iroquois Indians moved west from the Ohio River valley in search of beaver pelts. This meeting ground existed with both sides molding previous concepts to accommodate for a drastically changing environment. The Middle Ground: Indians. And in 1701. Aside from these agents. it pushed several Indian Nations into the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi regions. New France understood the benefits of creating alliances against a common enemy in the Iroquois Five Nations.

trade is an indispensable component in that. and we should all be able to relate to this in terms of globalization and the strength of the market. 15 .White are able to broaden our perspective of this period in which two groups came into contact. However complex the narrative of French and Indian interaction has become.

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